One Sunday in church I looked across the sanctuary, and I saw bunches of families that seemed like shiny, happy people, EXCEPT for my family (or so I thought). It was one of those Sunday mornings that started out well. Everyone gets up and gets with the program. But somewhere along the way, whether it was because of what someone said or didn’t say, or didn’t do, an emotional monsoon swept through our house that morning, and we left for church battered and broken. We bandaged our wounds long enough to hobble through Sunday service and endure the silent ride home. Conflict tried to cripple my family that morning, but we knew that the conflict was there for a divine purpose. Revelation: my family isn’t perfect…and that’s a good thing, a very good thing.
Family Life Is For the Imperfect
The late iconic Mr. Rogers, (yes, the “won’t you be my neighbor,” Mr. Rogers) wisely stated, “Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we are not perfect. ” When sinful people are placed in a house together and share life together, it gets messy. Family life causes us to bump into the unhappy business of human imperfection and deal with it daily. It’s like a mini congregation where the practice of grace hopefully leads to reconciliation.
There isn’t one perfect family in the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible chronicles nothing but imperfect families. Jesus, who is perfection, was born into an imperfect family. Decades of parenting helped me to realize that there isn’t a blueprint for the perfect family because they don’t exist. I used to wring my hands with worry when conflict reared its ugly head in my household. Finally, after years of hand-wringing, I now view conflict in family life as an opportunity for redemption. Going through redemptive process is the hard part. In the thick of the process expect that tears will probably flow, words will most likely mash hearts as sin spills its darkness and messiness throughout your home. At the end of this slow and sometimes extremely painful process, I know and trust that God will have done a supernatural overhaul in my household.
Family Life: Where We Learn Who is Front and Center
Family life is the environment where kids begin to discover that life without Christ is meaningless (Ecclesiastes). Home life is where you first learn what matters. Oh sure, if kids forget to do laundry or put gas in the car or have a huge sibling squabble, the consequences might get a little uncomfortable and life might be a little rocky for a bit. In partnership with correction comes the Gospel of grace, the reality of the love of Christ must be used. I aspire to create a home life like the one Paul David Tripp describes, “where parents see every instance of trouble, failure, and sin as another opportunity to teach their kids to cast himself to Christ.”
Family Life: Training Ground For Real Life
It’s the place where you learn to clean up your mess, and I am not talking about cleaning up spilled milk. I am referring to the emotional mess that is strewn all over the place following a category four disagreement with husband or kid. It’s what happens after the storm that makes all the difference to the world. Suddenly, the disaster becomes clothed with an evangelical purpose. Matthew Henry notes “reconciled relationships within the faith community can bear witness to God’s triumph over society’s corrupting influence.” Home, what better place to prepare our kids to live out into the world equipped to live as God’s children.
Family Life: Opportunities and Practice For Unconditional Love
There are days that, if I could, I would catch the trolley to the “Neighborhood of Make Believe” just so I could hear Fred Rogers in his sincere and soothing tone remind me, “ that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” Loving exactly as they are— that means loving those we live with even on the days they are undoubtedly unlovable, some days that is a very tall task. Fred Roger’s words echo the virtues that Paul encourages us to develop in Colossians 3. I find myself falling woefully short of these virtues. However, I know that God’s grace bends to my lowest weakness, so that even if I get knocked down in the first round by my parental shortcomings; I look to Him before getting back up into the boxing ring of life as a parent. My strength to finish this overwhelming and intimidating job of family life comes from Christ.
Family life is the first place to practice forgiveness. C.S.Lewis was right when he wrote “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” Forgiveness requires the unraveling of enough knots in the heart so that the offended can love the offender. Family life is a great place to practice this.
Beauty in the Imperfect
Perfect families only exist in the movies, leave that up to Hollywood. Gospel-centered families view family life with eternal significance. It’s a glorious task to show kids they need a rescue plan. That Rescue plan was delivered through an imperfect family. God often chooses the most unlikely people to be his messengers. After all, God delivered his best news to a bunch of raggedy, scruffy shepherds. In spite of my under qualifications and imperfections, God assigned an imperfect me to fulfill the task of parenting and family life. Through Him, I get hope and courage to do this kingdom work.